Today, Sports Illustrated published a huge article on a new wearable piece of technology that is purported to protect athletes against concussions. Sound familiar? It seems every few months a new technology is released that makes revolutionary claims about reducing football and other sports-related TBI.
The idea behind the latest project, called the Q-Collar, is that the helmets used by football teams do little to protect against concussions because they are unable to stop the brain from moving around within the skull.
Our collar applies gentle pressure to the muscles surrounding the jugular veins with maximum comfort. pic.twitter.com/hPFYjAbiPG
— Q30 Innovations (@Q30Innovations) May 19, 2016
Instead, Connecticut-based company Q30 Innovations intends to stop this inner-skull movement that causes concussions by lightly pressing on a person’s jugular veins, which causes the brain to slightly swell and fit more snugly within the skull. According to researchers involved in evaluating the device, the swelling is similar to the increase in brain blood volume that occurs when a person lies down.
“Basically you’re putting a kink in the hose on the outflow,” says Gregory Myer, Director of Research for the Division of Sports Medicine at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. “What that immediately does is create a backfill in the brain and increase that blood volume.
Myer was involved in two studies funded by Q30 Innovations that suggest the Q-Collar may be effective for athletes.
In the first preliminary study published in Frontiers of Neurology, 15 youth hockey players were evaluated over the course of a season and showed no statistically significant structural changes in the brains of those using the Q-Collar. In comparison, players who did not use the collar showed changes between pre-season and mid-season tests.
Myer also led a larger follow-up on 42 high-school football players published online today in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, which found similar results over the course of an entire season.
For both studies, the athletes wore helmet accelerometers which counted the number of hits sustained with an acceleration greater than 20g. The team then assessed structural changes in the brains using magnetic resonance imaging to measure the diffusivity of water in different parts of the brain before and after the study period.
“Changes indicate alterations in the tissue and the axons that could represent brain injury,” Myers says. “What we saw was that those boys that wore the collar did not have significant changes in the structural component of their brain, whereas those that didn’t wear the collar, we did see a significant change.”
The biggest problem with claims like those published by Sports Illustrated is that it is much too early to tell how effective the device really is. The Q-Collar has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration and Myer says more research is still needed. Further, it is important that independent studies are done to assure the funding of Myer’s studies has not influenced the results.
Until independent research is done to verify Myer’s findings, athletes and coaching staff should hold off on making plans to add devices like the Q-Collar to their concussion prevention system.